While South Africa has good reason to be optimistic about its ability to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup™, doubts still linger in the minds of the international media, says International Marketing Council of SA (IMC) chief executive Yvonne Johnston.
"Old stereotypes die hard," Johnston told hundreds of newspaper editors from around the world at the World Association of Newspapers conference in Cape Town this week.Speaking at a luncheon hosted by the IMC, Johnston answered the doubters by saying that South Africans had established an unbeatable track record for "fixing what others have written off as terminally broken, and for finding solutions where others have despaired."
Not many outside observers believed South Africans would come together the way they did in 1994, Johnston noted - some had even predicted a bloodbath; but South Africans in their millions turned out to vote in the country's first democratic elections, and apartheid passed away peacefully.
Besides this, and its formidable assets, Johnston said, South Africa had the ability to spend over US$2-billion (R14-billion) on stadiums and other infrastructure for the World Cup, as well as policing and other needs.
Speaking at the same luncheon, Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said South Africa would be using the staging of soccer's showpiece tournament to accelerate some of its major infrastructure projects, especially those involving transport.
Regardless of how SA's football team performed in 2010, Mlambo-Ngcuka said, the country would be the winner in "infrastructural development".
The Deputy President told the world's press leaders that the government was aware of its shortcomings in fighting poverty, HIV/Aids and crime, but was doing everything in its power to address this.
At the same time, the government was also aware of the negative perceptions that persisted in the international media despite the advances South Africa had made in reconstruction and development in the first 13 years of its democracy.
"There is a need to project our successes better," Mlambo-Ngcuka said, adding that this was the rationale behind the formation of the International Marketing Council of SA.